Newsom nominates Patricia Guerrero to be first Latina justice on state Supreme Court

A portrait of Justice Patricia Guerrero
Judge Patricia Guerrero was nominated by Gov. Gavin Newsom to serve on the California Supreme Court.
(Rob Andrew)
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California appellate court judge Patricia Guerrero, who was raised by Mexican immigrant parents in the Imperial Valley, was nominated by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday to serve as an associate justice on the California Supreme Court and, if approved, would be the first Latina on the Golden State’s highest court.

Guerrero, 50, serves on California’s 4th District Court of Appeal that oversees cases in San Diego and the Imperial Valley. She attended UCBerkeley and Stanford Law School, and worked her way through college, having first started working in a grocery store at 16, according to the governor’s office. Guererro previously served as a Superior Court judge in San Diego County from 2013 to 2017 and as an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California from 2002 to 2003.

“I am deeply honored by this incredible opportunity to uphold the rule of law and make a positive impact on the lives of Californians across the state,” Guerrero said in a statement. “If confirmed, I look forward to helping instill confidence in the equality and integrity of our judicial system while honoring the sacrifices of my immigrant parents and demonstrating to young people that anything is possible in our wonderful and diverse country.”


Newsom called Guerrero a “keen legal mind and well-regarded jurist,” and said that her “wide-ranging experience, integrity, deep respect for the rule of law and lifelong commitment to public service make her a phenomenal candidate to serve as our next California Supreme Court Justice.”

“Born and raised in the Imperial Valley by immigrant parents from Mexico, her extraordinary journey and nomination to serve as the first Latina Justice on the bench of our state’s highest court is an inspiration to all of us and a testament to the California Dream’s promise of opportunity for all to thrive, regardless of background or ZIP Code,” the governor said.

Guerrero has performed pro bono work as a member of the Immigration Justice Project advisory board to promote “due process and access to justice at all levels of the immigration and appellate court system,” according to Newsom’s office, which noted that Guerrero has represented pro bono clients in applications for asylum and in litigation over fair housing law compliance.

Guerrero’s grandfather grew up in Yécora in the Mexican state of Sonora and applied for a sponsor so he could become a permanent resident of the United States. Her father was a field worker and her mother encouraged her family to read, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

“I didn’t get here alone. You know, I stand on the shoulders of my parents and my grandparents who came to this country for greater opportunities for their children,” Guerrero said in a statement. “I think it’s important for people to see that even if they don’t want to be a lawyer or a judge, they can achieve whatever dreams that they want with opportunity and hard work.”


If approved, Guerrero would replace a vacancy left when Associate Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar left the bench in October.

“As we continue to make strides in building a judiciary more representative of our state’s diversity, Justice Guerrero will bring her rich background and experiences to important decisions that impact the daily lives of every Californian,” Newsom said. “Serving on our state’s Supreme Court, I’m confident that she will continue her tireless work to ensure that our cherished rights and freedoms are protected for all Californians.”

Retired California Supreme Court Justice Carlos R. Moreno said in a statement that having a justice brought up in the Imperial Valley and raised by immigrants would add “important geographical balance to the court.”

“With her extensive experience handling complex litigation matters, intellectual rigor and commitment to fairness and equality, Justice Guerrero is well equipped to navigate the most complex legal issues in our court system and will make an excellent addition to our state’s highest court,” Moreno said.

State Sen. María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), who chairs the California Latino Legislative Caucus, said Guerrero’s nomination is history in the making.

“Latinas make up nearly 20% of California’s population, but we are underrepresented in nearly every industry, including the California Judiciary,” Durazo said in a statement. “When Latinas are absent from this critical branch of government, our experiences and perspectives are excluded, and this ripples throughout our communities in so many other ways. Access to justice will be better served for all Californians.”


Guerrero’s nomination will now to go to the State Bar of California‘s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation and must be confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.